The Courier of Montgomery County article, “Emails show negotiation of upcoming road bond between county, PAC”, was received detailing potentially unethical activity by “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC (President Dr. Julie Turner).
- On July 14th, 4 of the 5 commissioners voted against moving forward on a road bond
- A consultant working for Montgomery county commissioners had numerous meetings with “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC leaders
- At the usual monthly meeting held Aug 11th, the commissioners did not discuss a road bond (it was not on the agenda so its discussion could not take place)
- On Aug 24th, a special meeting was held (announced on Aug 21st) in which all the commissioners voted to put a road bond on the November ballot
- The Texas Open Meetings Act has rules against a “walking quorum”: board members discussing business without a public meeting in which the agenda is known, the minutes are recorded, and the public has an opportunity to participate
- Several campaigns have contributed to the “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC including one of the Montgomery County commissioners, James Noack, in the amount of $2,200, the county’s District Attorney, Brett Ligon, in the amount of $500, the county’s Attorney, J.D. Lambright, in the amount of $1,100, and another county commissioner, Charlie Riley, in the amount of $250
- Montgomery County Attorney Says Commissioners’ Actions Will Not Void Election Results
17 thoughts on “Complaint Against “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC”
I need to recuse myself from this discussion and vote. The “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC campaigned against me when I was running for the Lone Star College System Board of Trustees.
Before I cast my vote, I understand this article is about whether or not the “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC have deceived voters and not about political corruption. I want to summarize the facts here and see if I am missing anything.
As a recap, the commissioner’s court have potentially violated public integrity rules set forth in the Open Meetings Act, which applies to the Commissioner’s Court. There should be a full-scale public integrity investigation led by the district attorney and the Texas Department of Public Safety “Texas Rangers” to see if the commissioners have indeed violated the Open Meetings Act. This will also involve getting those phone records from the commissioners.
The commissioners used private email accounts to conduct official business, thereby avoiding scrutiny, transparency, and oversight, and should have used the proper channels – a government/official e-mail account. I smell corruption here, and reminded of the Hillary Clinton Email controversy. I understand that private emails are subpoenable. So hopefully when the Attorney General Bret Ligon gets this Public Integrity investigation under way, we’ll know more about these back door deals.
So a secret meeting took place on the 14th between these special interest groups and an agreement was reached and the court approved on it. So the commissioners were aware of the road bond plan “MOU” and was even brought up during the August 24th Commissioner’s meeting as a foot note but were not allowed to discuss because it wasn’t on the agenda.
We’ll need more information which is dependent on the district attorney’s investigation (if we even have one).
Did the court violate the Open Meetings Act?
Bill O’Sullivan, the Texas Patriot PAC treasurer, sent to the private emails of the court members and the political consultant Marc Devenport that they should be aware of violating the open meetings act, known as the “Chain Quorum.” This would be something that the district attorney should investigate. Did the parties responsible openly admit they were violating the open meetings act? They had full knowledge that they were violating the law?
Having those email chains and phone records will also help with the investigation, and the Texas Patriot PAC should get a subpoena to release them.
Since the Open Meetings Act applies to the Commissioner’s Court, did Bill O’Sullivan and Marc Davenport break the law?
Now for my decision as to whether or not the “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC have deceived voters. Did they publish a breakdown of the road bond plan “MOU” on their public website? I sure didn’t see anything other than “We research because you don’t have the time” which seems kind of condescending. It is as if I can trust them to make decisions for me without a public forum.
I also looked around on their Facebook page. Found this page:
Seems to break down how the money will be distributed between the precincts.
So far, I cannot find that they have committed foul as far as deceiving the public. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t broken any laws with the Open Meetings Act, as we’ll hopefully see during a much needed investigation with this email and phone records.
Unless I’m missing something, and please tell me if I am, it would have been impossible for all of these people to have come to an amicable solution without having communicated in violation of The Open Meetings Act, right? Didn’t one person as much as admit to having spoken to the opposition and that they were ready to move forward, despite having to means of doing so that would not have been in violation of TOMA?
There was an inquiry for information on Mr. Marc Davenport.
It’s not clear that this is the consultant; however, this is the local individual who repeatedly turned up in the searches:
Intellius People Search
Zoominfo Business Exec Profile
Zoominfo Business Exec Profile
Infofree Business Profile
The Conroe Courier has more details on the consultant (the links above ARE for the correct individual):
Davenport has become a well-known political consultant across the county with numerous politicians utilizing his services. In fact, according to campaign finance reports from Doyal and Riley, both have paid Davenport for “consulting” services as recently as May. On May 16, Doyal paid Davenport $10,000 for consulting expenses. He also paid $5,000 on May 17 to Stephanne Davenport, Davenport’s wife, for her campaign for county treasurer. According to Riley’s campaign reports, he paid Davenport $10,000 on May 14 along with $5,000 to Performance Marketing on the same day. The report shows the same mailing address for Davenport and Performance Marketing.
Riley also contributed $2,500 to Stephanne Davenport’s campaign. Montgomery County Sheriff’s Capt. Rand Henderson, who is running against Montgomery Police Chief Jim Napolitano in next year’s election to replace retiring Sheriff Tommy Gage, also has been using Davenport as campaign manager. Henderson also could not be reached for comment.
Judge candidate, ADA Grant cuts ties with political consultant Davenport amid Open Meetings Act investigation
It is probable that the involved parties knew the details of the meeting more than 72 hrs in advance to insure their availability; it was very exacting to wait until the last moment to publish notification. It seems like they were treating the meeting as more of a formality after reaching an agreement previously. Aside from that this defeats the purpose of having an open meeting, if proved to be intentional, this is in definite violation of the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.
However, I don’t really make any connection with misleading voters. Have we decided if this is still within the scope of our action?
What is the specific question of the complaint? Did the Texas Tea Party Patriots act unethically? Or did the Commissioners Court violate the Open Meetings Act?
The Bylaws for the PAC state that the purpose is “(1) Increased informed voter turnout, particularly in local elections and (2) Act as a referee by (a) determining an ethical violation has occurred in an attempt to deceive voters, (b) award support to the injured party to correct the misinformation, and (c) publish the details of the unethical behavior and who was responsible.”
In regard to certain members of the Texas Tea Party Patriots actions being unethical, I would submit the following:
1. Due to the appearance of public opposition, a majority of the County Commissioners voted on July 14th against holding the proposed bond election. The TTPP was an active opponent to the bond election and generated significant opposition to the proposed bond election.
2. Following the defeat of the proposed bond election, negotiations ensued between the TTPP and members of the Commissioners Court both directly and through representatives of the Court.
3. Apparently a compromise was reached between the TTPP and the Commissioners Court, and the proposed bond election was approved by the Court on August 24.
Disregarding the question of whether the Commissioners Court violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, and also disregarding the financial support provided to TTPP by certain members of County government, the more important questions are which party initiated the negotiations and why?
If the Commissioners Court initiated the negotiations with TTPP in order to address their concerns, then the TTPP is simply responding to those overtures and acting ethically. Responsible elected officials should seek input from stakeholders in their communities (preferably before a decision is voted), and a desire for compromise in the name of progress should be applauded.
However, if TTPP initiated the negotiations after successfully defeating the election proposal, then one must question the sincerity of their opposition to the bond election. If TTPP opposed the election proposal simply to gain future negotiating leverage with the Commissioners Court, then that dishonest behavior would be “an attempt to deceive voters” and therefore unethical.
1. Was the TTPP sincere in their opposition to the proposed bond election?
2. Was it the intention of certain members of the TTPP to oppose the election simply to gain leverage for a future bargain?
3. Did the TTPP representatives have the approval of their members to negotiate with Commissioner Court?
4. What did TTPP gain from their agreement with the Commissioners Court? (Priority for certain projects? Guarantee of certain contractors? A reduction in expenditures?)
It would be interesting to know whether TTPP placed the MOU before their membership for a vote of approval. If so, the results of such a vote would help answer question #1.
(Not germane to this complaint, but I wonder whether the Commissioners Court negotiated with any other groups in regard to the proposed bond election. Why TTPP and not another group?)
Wilson, the Commissioners Court did negotiate with other groups.
“A few others brought into the discussion included: Ken Vaughn, of the Montgomery County Tea Party; former District 15 state Rep. Steve Toth; and The Woodlands Township board member Gordy Bunch, according to O’Sullivan.”
I’m leaning towards “no foul” or “not deceiving their voters” on the part of TTPP. They posted the details of the bond on their Facebook page so there was really no secret and they seemed open about it. The only question I have is what Wilson brings up. Did the members of their organization actually vote on it or was did Osullivan’s make the decision on his own?
I can find no deliberate wrong doing on the part of TTPP, as they had posted the new bond information on their Facebook page and are not deliberately deceiving their supporters. I am ruling “no foul” since today is the deadline. I am curious, however, if the TTPP members had a vote on this bond, or if O’Sullivan went ahead and approved it without a vote.
Since lack of new information, I am ruling “no foul.”
I move that we start voting. Anyone seconds?
I second the motion to close debate and vote on the complaint.
I agree that there is no evidence of deliberate wrong on the part of TTPP. There is certainly an appearance of impropriety, but no evidence to support any unethical activities at this time. I vote “No Foul”.
I vote “No Foul.”
I’ve just got to vote no foul, but I really, really want to vote the other way. Damn my sense of objectivity. I sometimes wish I were more emotional and could just say “You know it was a shady as hell way to go about it, and you stayed –just barely– within the confines of the law, but you’re such a jerk, I voted against you anyway, because I don’t like you.” That isn’t my speed though.
The “Nay’s” are greater than one standard deviation. The Referees find against putting “Texas Tea Party Patriots” PAC (President Dr. Julie Turner) on the Wall-of-Shame.